Ramzan was the time when the lanes of the bustling Mohammad Ali Road in South Mumbai would come alive with makeshift eateries displaying a dizzying array of food. Its streets would turn into an all-night food festival supporting the businesses of hundreds of small-time eateries.
This year’s Ramzan in the time of COVID-19 has been disastrous for these small businesses. For the first time in 15 years since he took over from his father, Muzzamil Shaikh has not put up his dahi vada stall outside the famous Noor Mohammadi restaurant. “The earnings from the food stall during Ramzan ensures we do not worry too much about poor book sales during the rest of the year,” said Shaikh, who runs a bookstore next to Noor Mohammadi.
“The food industry does not make a lot of profit and works on a tight margin. With most eateries around Mohammad Ali Road falling under unorganised sector with no insurance, there will be hundreds who would not be able to return,” said Kurush Dalal, a food blogger who offers food walks around the area during Ramzan.
Over the past two decades, Mohammad Ali Road has evolved into a pilgrimage for food lovers during Ramzan. While the municipal ward has about 5,000 registered shops in the area, thousands more mushroom during Ramzan. The streets host between 40,000 and 50,000 food lovers during Ramzan weekdays while on the weekends, the footfall touches a lakh. People come from different parts of the city, irrespective of their religion, to feast on hot malpuwas, jalebis and phirnis.
Mohammad Shafeek Surti (52) said he is looking at a loss of Rs 80,000 this year. He used to set up a stall in a narrow bylane behind Minara Masjid selling kebabs, spicy bheja fry, nalli nehari and spicy soup. “One easily makes Rs 8,000 a day after paying the rent, workers and electricity charges. Business increases during the last 15 days of the month,” said Shafeek, who runs a juice shop in Mira Road.
The streets this year sport a deserted look. For Khalid Hakim, owner of the iconic Noor Mohammadi famous for its Chicken Sanju Baba, business that would double during Ramzan has reduced to a trickle with the restaurant opening only between noon and 1 am for deliveries. “Throughout the night during Ramzan, it is cramped with people. But this year, we are hardly making two to three deliveries a day,” said Hakim.
While some hotels have permission to home deliver, Suleman Usman Mithaiwala, the famous sweet shop that sells hot and crunchy malpuwa during Ramzan, has remained shut. “Unlike hotels or restaurants, sweet shops are not open at all. There is no business at all,” said co-owner Hakim Tariq Islahi.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines